With the beginning of Day #8 we were exactly halfway through our 14er Project, which meant it was all downhill from here! This day was another hiking day with a challenging loop of two 14ers on the agenda: Mount Bierstadt and Mount Evans (14ers #5 and #6).
Mount Evans is unlike almost every other 14er in Colorado. How’s that? Well, it has a road that goes nearly all the way to the summit; leaving only a short hike to reach to tip top of the mountain. This makes it a great way for people with any factors limiting their ability to hike up a 14er to still be able to experience the thin air and chill at this elevation.
Our hiking route to summit these two peaks had a little unorthodox start. We would begin our day at the summit parking lot for Mount Evans, start heading downhill, ascend Mount Bierstadt, traverse over the Mount Evans via Sawtooth Ridge, and finish with a short descent back to the truck and camper. This route is called the Tour de Abyss.
For the sake of both curiosity and convenience we decided to tow Little Bear up to the summit parking lot over 14,100 feet elevation. We were curious about how well we would sleep at 14k and how well the Alde heating system would work that high. It was also convenient because that’s where we would begin our hike.
After a warm night in Little Bear where Mandy struggled to get any sleep and Kendrick slept like a rock it was time to start getting ready for the day. Of course, we began with rejuvenating pot of coffee, which was a perfect complement to watching the beautiful sunrise at 14,000 feet!
As we began our hike we were surrounded mountain goas and their cute little babies roaming around everywhere! They really like to pose for the camera, too! We eventually had to say goodbye to the goats and start hiking or we’d be out all day. So, we began our descent into the Abyss Lake Basin.
Our descent began gradually on grassy slopes, but quickly became steep and loose as we made our way 800 vertical feet down a gully to the basin below. Once in the basin, we got to feel the warmth of the sun, which convinced us it was time to shed a few layers. The ascent of Mount Bierstadt began with a steep, grassy slope before gaining the ridge that would take us to the summit. The ridge was a fun mix of hiking with a few short sections of easy scrambling.
When we reached the summit of Mount Bierstadt we enjoyed a little rest in the warm sun and took a few celebratory nips of bourbon from the flask. As we gazed across the basin Mount Evans seemed so far away. So, we finished taking photos on the summit of Bierstadt and began the short descent to the Sawtooth Traverse—our route back to Evans.
The Sawtooth starts out with a steep, loose descent before turning into a relatively straightforward hike with a few short stretches of scrambling and exposure. We had already been on our feet for quite a few hours to summit Mount Bierstadt so we were beginning to feel the effects of the day in our legs and overall energy levels. This made the Sawtooth Traverse feel like a bit more of a slog than it really is.
On our way to Mount Evans we encountered more of the seemingly endless mountain goat population. Closer to the summit we got to experience the unpredictable nature of the mountains as it started to snow on us in the middle of August! Shortly after getting snowed on we reached the summit of Mount Evans.
The summit is an interesting experience since the road goes nearly all the way to the top. We had been hiking nearly 9 hours to summit two 14ers and everyone else on the summit drove to the top and walked about 3 minutes to get there. It’s amazing to see how different people can arrive to the same place and have completely different experiences in the process.
As we headed back down to Idaho Springs we got to experience one of the most beautiful drives in all of Colorado—the Mount Evans Scenic Byway (Scenic Drive #7). This is the highest paved road in North America and is full of tight switchbacks, narrow lanes, and big drop-offs. It’s an exciting road to tow an 18-foot camper up-and-down, for sure!
Back in Idaho Springs, we found a cozy parking lot to call home for the night. Conveniently, it was located right across from Westbound & Down Brewing (Brewery #8), which was a perfect spot to meet a few friends from the area. We missed our friend Amanda, but she was kind enough to leave us a gift with the bartender—a crowler of IPA! Gail and Mac came in from Evergreen to join us for dinner and a few drinks. We’ve enjoyed how this project has allowed us to not only see a bunch of familiar faces, but also meet new ones.
Now, we’re over halfway done with our Colorado 14er Project. Hiking days like today are exhausting and have left Mandy wondering whether or not she can actually finish this project. But as each passes it seems to become more-and-more clear that it IS possible with a little stubbornness and determination
So, here’s to 6 more days exploring Colorful Colorado…